Another training? Haven’t we exhausted these things yet?
So we had another training today. This one was called - ah hell, I don’t know what it was called. I paid as much attention to this one as I have to any other training we’ve had. And besides, every last one of these training sessions is the same. Someone stands up in front of the room and reads the PowerPoint slides about material that has no bearing on me - or probably anyone else. Of course they could just send the PowerPoint slides to everyone. After all, we all know how to read. But someone misses out on a quarterly bonus if there’s no formal training.
One good thing is that the end of the quarter is at the end of this month, so we (hopefully) don’t have to sit through any more of these things and help someone get a bonus for another couple months. The other good thing is that when we have one of these training sessions, it’s not entirely worthless. I can usually catch some Zs while the training instructor is droning on and reading PowerPoint slides to me.
PowerPoint - like a very boring bedtime story for adults.
Another quiz? When did I re-enroll in school?
I just had to take another quiz for work. This one was about our data-protection policy. Now, I have done a lot of pointless exercises in this job, but I can’t remember anything more futile than this. Let me take you through it. We received a message about this quiz, and this message included a link to some training materials that we were supposed to read before the quiz. It was no big deal - just 11 PowerPoint slides. Granted, it wasn’t interesting, but it was easy enough to comprehend.
Then I clicked on the link to take the quiz. Let me take you back to when you were 16 or 17 and you were taking the SAT or ACT. You would usually find questions like this one.
An eastbound train leaves Denver at 4:30 PM traveling at 45 miles per hour. Another train heading westward leaves Chicago at 5:12 PM traveling at 53 miles per hour. Which train is carrying more lumber?
Naturally, your response was, “What kind of stupid f@#*ing question is that?” Well, whoever wrote the questions for this must have experience writing questions for college-entrance exams. This quiz about our data-protection policy had no correlation whatsoever to the “training materials.” Yet somehow, we all have to score 70% or better within five attempts to pass this quiz. I imagine that if you can’t pass it within five attempts, you’re sentenced to the work equivalent of detention: a four-hour PowerPoint presentation (given by a terminally-dull person who actually finds this rubbish interesting) training you about all the ins, outs, and what-have-yous of our data-protection policy. I did pass it on the second attempt, but guess what. My understanding of the data-protection policy is not any better because I passed the quiz. In fact, I’ve already forgotten anything I was supposed to learn from this exercise.
This is the height of the absurd. One of the things we hear constantly around our office is that we “don’t have the resources.” Yet we always seem to find the resources for junk like this. So, let me give a little pop quiz of my own.
Requiring employees to take quizzes just so some employee can meet his or her quarterly goals is stupid and pointless.
I’ve been company-meeting comatose
You’ll have to pardon me for not posting in a while. I was in a coma induced by a company meeting. It couldn’t be helped, really. After all, we’ve had (I think) four company meetings since the new bossman showed up about three months ago. And here’s the thing. Every single company meeting is the same. It goes a little something like this.
The bossman takes the microphone and says, “Welcome to our company meeting. How come no one’s sitting up front? Come on, sit up here in front.”
No one does.
The bossman then gives a brief introduction to the meeting and presents the requisite 30 to 40 PowerPoint slides, to which no one really pays attention. Then he wraps things up and asks if anyone has any questions.
No one does.
He then basically pleads for us to come up with questions, which we don’t.
Listen, boss, you’re in a tough spot. I know you’re here to rally the troops. We’ve had a tough go of things for a few years, and you’ve ridden into town to get us back on the right track. Here’s the thing though. We’ve all had the care beaten out of us since our uberfuhrers took over. That’s why no one sits up front, and why no one has any questions at these company meetings. Oh, and one more thing. If you really want to endear yourself to us, pizza at the company meetings is a nice gesture. However, fewer company meetings would be an even nicer gesture.
I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.
This is a transcript of an actual conversation I had with a co-worker yesterday.
Co-worker: “Are you going today?”
Me (perplexed): “Going where?”
Co-worker: “To the bowling thing.”
Me: “Is that today?”
Me: “Then I guess you have your answer.”
Team building…or how to suck all the fun out of bowling
A notice went out recently about a company bowling event. Whoe doesn’t love bowling? It should be fun, right? Not so fast, my friend. This is, after all, a company event, so all the potential fun has to be sucked out of it. How do they do that? By making bowling into a team-building activity. GAAAAAAAAAAH! Team building! That’s another one of those terms that makes me grind my teeth to dust. How bad could it be, you ask? Well, Let’s just have a look.
Colored pins are mixed in with the usual white pins so you can score more points than you ordinarily would. Mind you, you’re not knocking down any more pins. You’re just getting more points if you knock over the colored pins. Part of the package is “unique team identifiers”. So your team gets assigned the color yellow and everyone gets a yellow wristband? Or maybe headbands? (Obviously, it would be too expensive to have a shirt as the “unique identifier” for every participant.)
Then there is the part about having a team-building facilitator. What the hell is this? We leave work to do something fun, and a facilitator is involved? Listen! I don’t want to meet with facilitators during work, let alone when I’m doing some leisure activity. What exactly does this facilitator do to help you? Give you bowling lessons between frames? Or is it something more sinister, like plotting against the other teams so your team can come out ahead? Oh, and does the facilitator get the unique team identifier? I should hope so.
And finally there is the pizza. OK, before I rant on that, allow me to say…pizza and bowling? What are we, 12 years old? Do we need a permission slip? And do we need our parents to drop us off at the bowling alley? But it’s not just making pizza. It’s a pizza-making challenge. Since when is making pizza a challenge? Worse than that is the notion that making a pizza with your team requires creative thinking. Really? I guess it is pretty hard to just talk with your teammates to figure out what the majority of the people on the team like and what toppings should be avoided. And this whole thing is going to be judged? Who judges the pizza challenge? The facilitators?
Obviously, I won’t be at this event, but I just have to ask: what kind of soulless evil slug can take all the fun out of going bowling and making pizza? The kind of soulless evil slug that thinks team-building activities are good ideas.
5 words to describe my feelings at the start of a workday?
A survey went out to all the employees at our site yesterday. I’ll be honest and tell you that I only looked at the first question. Why? Well, the first question caused me to chuckle. Had I taken a sip of water before looking at the first question, I no doubt would have sprayed it all over my monitors. The first question asked us to use five words to describe how we feel at the beginning of a workday.
Really? I mean, do you really want to know how I feel at the beginning of a workday? Well, if you really must know, words like despair come to mind. Trust me, there are a whole host of others. This slogan pretty well sums it up.
Here’s a question. Instead of words, can I answer this question with symptoms I notice at the beginning of a workday? I mean, I know they use more than one word, but I could easily answer this question with things like: nausea, cold sweats, fever, fatigue, and dry mouth. In other words, my workday could come with a warning like this one.
Is there a bigger waste of time than a company meeting?
A company meeting was announced, and nobody seemed to know what it would be about. It didn’t feel ominous like the meetings we’ve had, and it wasn’t our quarterly financial update because our CEO hadn’t released the numbers yet.
Still, I knew something must be up because pastries were provided at the start of the meeting. Why did that raise my antennae? Because free pastries are merely a diversion. The goal is to get people to say “That meeting wasn’t so bad. We got pastries out of it.” I don’t buy that jive…and for good reason.
We had a company meeting yesterday, and my one prevailing response to it is: Is it possible to find a bigger waste of time than a company meeting? Maybe some things are, but I know I’d be hard-pressed to come up with something that’s a bigger waste of time than one dude talking for an hour and giving quotes by Michael Jordan and Sun Tzu. Even more so when you have no idea what the dude is talking about. Seriously, during the meeting, I wanted to stand up and shout “What the fuck are you talking about, Walter?”
Among the gems from this meeting were these.
- Our new boss man gave some examples of corporations buying out companies and letting the acquired company’s products - the ones that made that company an appealing purchase - basically die on the vine. Really? You don’t say? I’ve never heard of anything so preposterous.
- I swear I’m not making this up. Our new boss man actually said, “Every order is important now.” Yeah. Every order is important now. Because we used to give them the seagull treatment and crap all over the things that made us money.
I sure am glad we all sat in our cafeteria for an hour so we could hear things like that. Oh, and the quote from Michael Jordan was just the icing on the cake. Maybe next time you can throw in a quote from Nick Young or something.
Stub our collective toe?
As I recently wrote, office communication can be pretty offensive. Not in a Howard Stern sort of way, mind you, but offensive all the same. The other day I received one of the most offensive emails I’ve ever seen…and it had nothing to do with pills for the crank or Russian mail-order brides It was addressed to me and a couple other people involved in a certain project. The group leader (or coach, or champion, whatever buzzword is used to describe that particular job duty) exhorted all of us by saying, “The goal is to make sure we do not stub our collective toe.”
Excuse me a minute.
I apologize for that. I had to take a dose of Pepto Bismol to settle my stomach just for writing those words.
The goal is to make sure we don’t stub our collective toe? There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll begin with the obvious. The goal isn’t to make sure we’re putting out something of quality, but rather that we don’t embarrass ourselves in the process? In other words, it’s OK to put out a mediocre product as long as we don’t make fools of ourselves? A lofty goal indeed.
Secondly is the figurative aspect of this. Even if - because we’re working as a team - we’re supposed to think of ourselves as one organism, we only have one toe? Seriously, even sloths have three toes.
And if in this figurative work organism, there is only one toe, then who gets that designation? Frankly, when you think about one toe, your first instinct might be to think that it’s expendable. However, if the organism only has one toe, then it seems like a pretty crucial part. Which begs the question: is the group leader the toe? I wonder.
Oh, and I nearly forgot that this message also included the utterly offensive “due diligence.” It just occurred to me that if such a thing as surf-rap existed, a great album title would be “Dude Illigence.” Hey, wait a minute! That’s not a bad idea. Screw you guys! I’m off to become the world’s first surf-rap artist.
Trust corporations? Surely you can’t be serious, Mr. Brokaw!
I was driving around yesterday and I heard one of Tom Brokaw’s curmudgeonly American Stories. In this one, he talked about how “the millennials” are different than “the greatest generation” and the Baby Boomers. He went on to ponder whether the millennials will have faith in traditional things like government and corporations.
Really, Mr. Brokaw? You have to wonder why millennials might distrust corporations? Allow me to welcome you to 2014. You know what this generation has seen from corporations? They have seen corporations downsize and move American jobs to Mexico, Asia, and everywhere other than the U.S. More and more American workers are ending up out of work. And why? So the CEOs of those corporations can pad their bank accounts and build vacation homes in exotic locations. Meanwhile, office drones are doing the jobs of two or three people whose jobs have been sent to someplace where the labor is cheaper.
I understand. Things were different when you were a lad. You’re damn right they were different! People used to be able to count on a pension after putting in their time with a company. Now most of us are faced with the idea that we’ll have to work until the day we die because we’ll never be able to put away enough money to retire. And all the while, we’re expected to frame everything with this question.
So you’ll have to pardon those of us that don’t have any faith in those entities that do whatever they can to suck the soul out of their employees in the name of bigger profits and a happy board of directors. Maybe the millennials will have faith in corporations when those soulless corporations do something to warrant the faith of people instead of screwing them out of jobs, benefits, and a living wage.